Shelved Dolls – Elizabeth “The Black Dahlia” Short – It’s Not The Murder Story You Think You Know (But It Is Terrifying And NSFW)

the black dahlia elizabeth short

Why are we focusing on Elizabeth Short, commonly known as The Black Dahlia this week? Would not one of Hollywood’s most famous murder victims be a better pick for, say, Halloween?

Well, I was actually planning to do Empress Sisi – who had a really disordered relationship with food, and exercise, and probably body dysmorphic disorder, and who is just generally interesting – but then I went to England. You know how it is. Your friend wants to go on some Jack The Ripper tour (despite the fact that it costs $40 each way to Whitechapel, British cab prices are insane, my Lord) and you find yourself muttering “they call these murders? Elizabeth Short. There was a murder.”

I don’t know why I felt the need to marginalize the deaths of innocent women. Because England makes me monstrous? I think it’s the British food. The sugar in millionaire’s shortbread brings out the elitist in all of us.

Suffice to say, the USA has the best murders. Team USA!

But really, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a stranger and more interesting case than the Black Dahlia murder. You probably already know about her. Either you’ve read the – perhaps a bit overblown – crime novel The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy, or you’ve seen some of her depictions onscreen. Mena Suvari played Short as naive, vulnerable and murdered by a drug addled ghost in American Horror Story:

While Mia Kirshner played her as more of a troubled seductress not murdered by a ghost in The Black Dahlia:

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    • Chelsea

      Have you seen the Sissi movies? They are the opposite of her life. But the costumes were nice! LOL

    • Maggie

      Oh dear god, your ending gave me goosebumps!

    • Sarah!

      Steve Hodel wrote a couple of books about his dad maybe doing this. They are extremely interesting but you have to kind of suspend your disbelief in order to get into them. Especially the second one where he implicates his father in like, 45 of the most famous murder cases of the last 60 years.

    • BeccaTheCyborg

      My suspect of choice is Frank Sweeney, a former doctor who almost certainly committed the Cleveland Torso Murders, and was in LA at the time.

    • Sabrina

      This was fascinating! So basically, do they not even have an idea of why someone would have wanted to murder her? No secret lovers, no super bad something with her dad? Her life seems pretty unextraordinary for a murder this brutal.

    • Laura

      I love, love, love the Shelved Dolls feature! I’ve already obsessively read about all the women you’ve profiled, yet I still learn something new every time. Can’t WAIT for the Sisi article!

    • Em

      You should do Sisi, definitely. I’m in the middle of her (poorly translated) biography, and she’s really interesting. Also, bought Mitford’s Pompadour bio after reading your take on her. I really like this series of yours!

    • Matzukado

      I absolutely did NOT click on the page with the picture (my psyche is far too fragile) but I just wanted to say that as someone who has had a passing interest in this case, this article added an extra dimension that I never knew about. I’m realling enjoying this series, thanks for writing it.